Irvette van Zyl is looking to retain her Soweto Marathon title she won last year. Photo: Reg Caldecott
It may be almost unthinkable to consider Irvette van Zyl as a favourite to win the women’s race at the Soweto Marathon but achieving crazy feats is the distance runner’s specialty.

The defending champion will line up for the race through the township tomorrow in her first marathon since giving birth to her second child in June. Van Zyl last year became the first South African female since 2009 to win the race.

The Olympic marathoner upgraded her bronze medal from 2016 for gold in a time of 2:41.06 with local favourite Mapaseka Makhanya finishing second for a South African 1-2.

“Winning it last year was special because it was always on my bucket list” Van Zyl said. “As long as I cross the finish line and better my time from last year, I will be happy.”

Van Zyl has been in red-hot form post-partum, winning four prominent 10km races on the trot to affirm her place as one of the country’s best distance athletes.

She came painstakingly close to joining the exclusive club of South African female athletes to dip below 32 minutes over 10 km at the FNB CitySurf Run in Durban last month.

The 31-year-old finished third, clocking a new personal best of 32:06.

Elana Meyer and Colleen de Reuck are the only South African women to have ducked below 32 minutes.

In September Van Zyl won two major 10-km titles a day and 1400 kilometres apart, racing to victory in Cape Town before crossing the line first at the FNB Joburg 10K CITYRUN.

She clocked the second fastest time of her career, clocking 32:48 at the 10km race at the Cape Town Marathon before winning the FNB Joburg 10K CITYRUN title in a new course record of 33:51. w“It meant that I can come and run Soweto, it boosted my confidence to come and run the marathon because if I can do two hard 10 kays in 24 hours it is a good sign you are fit enough to do a marathon,” Van Zyl said. “I’m not sure opting for Soweto is the smartest move because it is such a tough and hilly route but I have done my hills.”


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